Thursday, December 8, 2011

Everything Will Be the New IE6

There seems to be no shortage of people making a comparison to Internet Explorer version 6, or IE6, as the simplest way to declare that something is an impediment to progress. Sometimes the criticism is levied with the understanding that at one point IE6 was the bees knees (In praise of Internet Explorer 6), but more and more people forget that and just treat it, and by extension the subject of the comparison, with derision.

Here are some examples with the comparison right in the title, blithely link-baiting the unsuspecting reader:

I'm not challenging the validity of these articles, some of them make some very good points and the comparison is apt. Having listened to non-tech people (the ones who use "HTML5" in conversation the way they used "DHTML") start to make these comparisons without any historic context, I think it's about time we as web developers came up with a new metaphor to flog. I kinda wish it was Netscape Navigator 2.

the Netscape browser 'throbber.' Remember Netscape Navigator 2, which brought us all sorts of innovations such as frames, cookie management, and JavaScript (nee LiveScript)?

People don't use Netscape Navigator 2 as an insult/comparison the same way because that browser didn't last more than 10 years in the wild (despite my best efforts), not to mention far too many people have never even heard of it now. IE6, on the other hand, has persisted thanks to too many developers targeting the browser instead of the standard, making corporate IT departments reluctant to move users to the next release. Let's not count the tie to the operating system and the inherent fear of upgrading from some sub-set of users.

Whatever your gripe with a technology, I think it's about time we only made the IE6 comparison when it is appropriate, not as a catch-all to something we don't like or that we think is making our job harder.

So let's start comparing things to Netscape Navigator 2 (Netscape 2, Navigator 2, NN2, NS2 and whatever other variants you want). Let's free IE6 from this burden and perhaps it will slip away into the night.

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